Ghana police criminally prosecute journalist over sources

New York, July 23, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Ghana’s attorney general to drop prosecution of prominent journalist Ato Kwamena Dadzie under the 1960 criminal code in an attempt to get him to reveal his sources.

The Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service on Monday charged Dadzie, acting editor of Accra-based private station Joy FM, with publishing false news “with intent to cause fear and alarm,” defense lawyer Shadrach Arhin told CPJ. Dadzie is free on a bail bond of 5,000 cedis (US$3,430) and faces a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a fine, according to his lawyer. Police referred the case to the attorney general’s office for legal advice, he said.

In a July 6 story, Joy had suggested that the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association had recently withdrawn their petition opposing a US$10 billion housing construction deal between the government and a South Korean company after receiving death threats in text messages, according to local journalists and news reports. Dadzie was charged after he refused to tell police names of members who were allegedly threatened.

Peace FM in Accra quoted  police spokesman Kwesi Ofori this week as saying that the police were acting in the interest of “protecting life and property” in order to apprehend whoever sent the threatening text messages.  

“We call on the attorney general to dismiss this outrageous criminal charge against Ato Kwamenia Dadzie,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “The police should not intimidate a journalist into disclosing his sources.”

Ghanaian Minister of Information John Tia Akologu dismissed the allegations of threats in a press statement as a “concocted report cloaked in investigative pretentions,” and demanded a retraction, according to news reports. In the same statement, Akoglu ordered police to investigate the claims. In a subsequent interview with JoyOnline, Joy FM’s website, the executive secretary of the developers association subsequently denied that there had ever been threats.

In a press statement on Thursday, Ghanaian Minister of Information John Tia Akologu said the government was not “interested in criminalizing speech and/or sending any journalist to court” but accused the media of “hiding behind press freedom to deliberately peddle falsehood and in other cases hate mongering.” 

Ghana repealed its criminal libel law in 2001.